Financial News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on banking and finance
Bernard Madoff, accused of the largest fraud in U.S. history, will be allowed to remain in his $7 million Park Avenue apartment instead of being sent to jail, under terms of an agreement announced today by federal prosecutors. Madoff was unable to meet the bond conditions set last week by a federal magistrate which required him to get four people to sign his personal recognizance bond. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, only Madoff's wife and brothers were willing to sign the document. But instead of ordering him held in jail, prosecutors agreed to home detention with electronic monitoring. Madoff and his luxury apartment on Manhattan's upper east side will be fitted with an electronic monitoring device by the court's pre-trial services and Madoff will be under a curfew of between 7 p.m. through 9 a.m. Madoff's wife agreed to post the mansions in her name in Palm Beach, Florida and in Montauk on New York's Long Island. The Securities and Exchange Commission chairman said today the agency has found "no evidence of wrongdoing by any SEC personnel" in connection with Madoff's alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme and that the SEC intends to get to the bottom of where it may have gone wrong. "I was very concerned to learn this week that credible allegations about Mr. Madoff had been made over nearly a decade and yet never referred to the commission for action," Commissioner Christopher Cox said at a press conference. Yesterday, Cox acknowledged what amounted to a generational failure on the part of the SEC to discover any hint of Madoff's scheme, despite allegations dating back to 1999.
Note: Why is the criminal responsible for the largest single banking scandal in history given house arrest rather than jail before his trial? Isn't it remarkable that the hands-off treatment Madoff received over the years from the SEC seems to be continuing from the Federal prosecutors? For more on Wall Street corruption, click here.
AIG, the huge insurance company, has so far gotten $173 billion worth of federal aid, because traders at one small division made bets on exotic securities that were so calamitous they threatened to bring down the whole company. So far, the amount of money the feds have pledged to this one firm equals nearly one-third of the nation’s defense budget. General Motors, America’s biggest automaker, has asked for a $10 billion federal loan, equal to one-seventeenth of what AIG has gotten – and Congress has said no. There were no rogue traders at GM, and the company’s problems have intensified in plain view, over several months, instead of coming from out of nowhere in a single, cataclysmic episode. Make sense? Doesn’t to me. So maybe if we look at each company a bit more closely, it will be clearer why the government favors companies like AIG over ones like GM. Does have AIG have friends in high places? You could say that. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke both support the AIG bailout, and they’ve steered money to the company without Congressional approval. GM’s most important friends in Washington have been the Michigan Congressional delegation, which obviously doesn’t have the clout it used to. Paulson has actually argued against using part of the huge $700 billion financial bailout fund to help the automakers, because they can’t pass a “viability” test proving they’ll stay in business long enough to pay back the loans. But AIG hasn’t passed a viability test either, and without federal help there’s little doubt it would be in bankruptcy.
Note: At least someone is asking the right questions! For many highly revealing reports from reliable sources on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Shock and panic spread through the country clubs of Palm Beach and Long Island after Bernard L Madoff, a trading powerbroker for over four decades, allegedly confessed to a massive fraud that will cost his wealthy investors at least $50 billion, perhaps the largest swindle in Wall Street history. Mr Madoff, 70, a former Nasdaq stock chairman, was apparently turned in by his two sons and arrested on Thursday morning at his Manhattan apartment by the FBI. The FBI claims that three senior employees of Mr Madoff's investment firm - once a towering presence on Wall Street - turned up at his apartment on Wednesday to ask questions about the company's solvency. Two of them are believed to be his sons, Andrew and Mark, who have worked for their father for two decades. Mr Madoff told them that he was "finished", that he had "absolutely nothing", and that "it's all just one big lie". He said the investment arm of his firm was "basically a giant Ponzi scheme," and that it had been insolvent for years. A Ponzi scheme, named after the swindler Charles Ponzi, is a fraudulent investment operation that pays abnormally high returns to investors paid from money put into the scheme by subsequent investors, rather from real profits generated by share trading. The FBI complaint states that Mr Madoff told his sons he believed the losses from his scheme could exceed $50 billion. If that is the case, his fraud would be far greater than past Ponzi schemes and easily the greatest swindle perpetrated by one man.
Note: If a former Nasdaq chairman was committing this kind of blatant fraud while still the chairman of Nasdaq, what does it say about the level of corruption on Wall Street? For a treasure trove of reports from reliable sources exposing the realities of the Wall Street corruption, click here.
The credit bubble has burst. The economy is tanking. Investors in the U.S. stock market have lost more than $9 trillion since its peak a year ago. But in industries at the center of the crisis, plenty of top officials managed to emerge with substantial fortunes. Fifteen corporate chieftains of large home-building and financial-services firms each reaped more than $100 million in cash compensation and proceeds from stock sales during the past five years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Four of those executives, including the heads of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos., ran companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection or seen their share prices fall more than 90% from their peak. The study ... showed that top executives and directors of the firms cashed out a total of more than $21 billion during the period. The issue of compensation and other rewards for corporate executives is front-and-center in the wake of the financial meltdown. In the tech bubble of the late 1990s, more than 50 individuals each made more than $100 million from selling shares just prior to the crash. Many had just founded companies that had never turned a profit. "The system tends to reward people for participating in bubbles," says Roy C. Smith, a finance professor at New York University's business school.
Note: For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from reliable sources, click here.
Executives and employees at the major credit ratings agencies were often aware of problems in the AAA grades awarded to thousands of mortgage-related securities whose downgrades helped plunge the nation into a financial meltdown. The companies — Standard & Poor, Moody’s and Fitch, Inc. — made enormous profits as they evaluated a ballooning number of mortgage-backed bonds, many of which were given top marks as long as housing prices went up. “The story of the credit rating agencies is a story of colossal failure,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The California Democrat said, “Millions of investors rely on them for independent, objective assessments. The rating agencies broke this bond of trust, and federal regulators ignored the warning signs and did nothing to protect the public. The result is that our entire financial system is now at risk.” The companies are important because their high assessments assured investors that their money should be safe. The inflated ratings awarded to securities backed up by subprime loans led investors to buy them in enormous numbers. But now, most of these securities have been downgraded and the market for them has largely evaporated, contributing to the current crisis. The panel also heard former ratings agency executives say there’s an inherent conflict of interest in the industry because they’re paid by bond issuers instead of investors who trust their ratings to make smart investments.
Note: For many reports on corporate corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Sorry to pop your bubble folks, but it no longer matters who's president. Why? The real "game changer" already happened. Democracy has been replaced by Wall Street's new "disaster capitalism." That's the big game-changer historians will remember about 2008, masterminded by Wall Street's ultimate "Trojan Horse," Hank Paulson. Congress simply handed over voting power and the keys to trillions in the Treasury to Wall Street's new "Disaster Capitalists" who now control "democracy." We let it happen. In one generation America has been transformed from a democracy into a strange new form of government, "Disaster Capitalism." Three decades of influence peddling in Washington ... accelerated under Reaganomics and went into hyperspeed under Bushonomics, both totally committed to a new disaster capitalism run privately by Wall Street and Corporate America. No-bid contracts in wars and hurricanes. A housing-credit bubble -- while secretly planning for a meltdown. Finally, the coup de grace: Along came the housing-credit crisis, as planned. Press and public saw a negative, a crisis. Disaster capitalists saw a huge opportunity. Yes, opportunity for big bucks and control of America. This end game was planned for years in secret war rooms on Wall Street, in Corporate America, in Washington and the Forbes 400. Naomi Klein summarizes the game in Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This "new economy" generates enormous profits feeding off other peoples' misery: Wars, terror attacks, natural catastrophes, poverty, trade sanctions, subprime housing meltdowns and all kinds of economic, financial and political disasters.
Note: The author of this highly critical commentary, Paul B. Farrell, is a well-known writer on finance and investment and a long-time columnist at The Wall Street Journal's sister-site MarketWatch.
One afternoon in April, six dozen wealthy Americans were entertained at a luncheon party in Midtown Manhattan, along with a special guest from Paris: Henri Loyrette, the director of the Louvre. The host of the exclusive gathering was the Swiss bank UBS, whose elite private bankers built a lucrative business in recent years by discreetly tending the fortunes of American millionaires and billionaires. But now, as the federal authorities intensify an investigation into offshore bank accounts, the secrets of this rarefied world are being dragged into the open — and UBS’s privileged clients are running scared. Under pressure from the authorities, UBS is considering whether to divulge the names of up to 20,000 of its well-heeled American clients, according to people close to the inquiry, a step that would have once been unthinkable to Swiss bankers, whose traditions of secrecy date to the Middle Ages. Federal investigators believe some of the clients may have used offshore accounts at UBS to hide as much as $20 billion in assets from the Internal Revenue Service. Doing so may have enabled these people to dodge at least $300 million in federal taxes on income from those assets, according to a government official connected with the investigation. The case could turn into an embarrassment for Marcel Rohner, the chief executive of UBS and the former head of its private bank, as well as for Phil Gramm, the former Republican senator from Texas who is now the vice chairman of UBS Securities, the Swiss bank’s investment banking arm. It also comes at a difficult time for UBS, which is reeling from $37 billion in bad investments, many of them linked to risky American mortgages.
Note: For an illuminating overview of the secret world of banking and finance, click here.
[News anchor LOU DOBBS:] Open borders advocates are refusing to acknowledge rising evidence of plans for a NAFTA superhighway. Many in the mainstream media absolutely refuse to acknowledge the reality. The plans could be a major step toward that North American Union of the United States, Canada and Mexico. BILL TUCKER, CNN Correspondent: There is no NAFTA superhighway. Not officially. In Texas planning a development is under way for what are officially called transportation corridors. The Trans Texas Corridor, I-69, a combination of rail lines, utility lines, car and truck lanes, [is planned] to be as wide as three football fields laid end to end. It will be financed by a private foreign company ... who will then own the lease on the road and the revenue generated by the tolls. Texas may use eminent domain to lay claim to some of the land needed to build it. For an imaginary road there's a lot of money and effort involved [and] some very real opposition. TERRI HALL, TEXASTURF.ORG: There's just no doubt that this is happening. We've been to the public hearings. We've seen the presentations. We've seen the documents. We waded through them and there's a whole lot more groups besides just ours. And we've got Farm Bureau, Sierra Club, a whole host of groups from the left and the right. TUCKER: In Kansas a resolution opposing the superhighway overwhelmingly passed the State House.
Note: To watch a video of this Lou Dobbs Tonight segment, click here.
David Rothkopf's Superclass [can be viewed] as a map of how the world really works. Rothkopf, a former managing director of Kissinger Associates and an international trade official in the Clinton Administration, has identified roughly 6,000 individuals who have "the ability to regularly influence the lives of millions of people in multiple countries worldwide" ... with a growing allegiance ... to each other rather than to any particular nation. Rothkopf [cites] the Pareto principle of distribution, or the "80/20 rule," whereby 20 percent of the causes of anything are responsible for 80 percent of the consequences. That means 20 percent of the money-makers make 80 percent of the money and 20 percent of the politicians make 80 percent of the important decisions. That 20 percent belongs to the superclass. Superclass ... is as much about who is not part of the superclass as who is. As I read Rothkopf's chronicles of elite gatherings -- Davos, Bilderberg, the Bohemian Grove (all male), Fathers and Sons (all male) -- I was repeatedly struck by the near absence of women. When Rothkopf summarizes "how to become a member of the superclass," his first rule is "be born a man." Only 6 percent of the superclass is female. Superclass is written in part as a consciousness-raising exercise for members of the superclass themselves. Rothkopf worries that "the world they are making" is deeply unequal and ultimately unstable. But it's likely to take more than exhortation. In the words of former Navy Secretary John Lehman, "Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." Why would the superclass want to give it up?
Note: The website www.theyrule.net allows visitors to trace the connections between individuals who serve on the boards of top corporations, universities, think thanks, foundations and other elite institutions. For lots more on secret societies, click here.
The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers [forecast] a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined. The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War. And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion. Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation. From the unhealthy brew of emergency funding, multiple sets of books, and chronic underestimates of the resources required to prosecute the war, we have attempted to identify how much we have been spending - and how much we will, in the end, likely have to spend. The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion. Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions.
Note: For many reports from major media sources which reveal massive war profiteering, click here.
Congress is about to sell us the biggest fraud in American history. It's been highly touted as an economic stimulus bill that will help millions of Americans. As part of the bill, Congress is set to rush through an increase in the mortgage loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (and Federal Housing Administration insurance, too) - from $417,000 to $729,750 - the first step toward a massive financial disaster in which taxpayers will end up paying through the nose. Now, thanks to Congress, junk bond investors will be able to pawn off their bad debt to Fannie and Freddie. This shift will certainly doom Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so don't be surprised if we, the taxpayers, have to bail out poor Fannie and Freddie - to the tune of more than $1 trillion. The irony here is that the collapse in housing prices could make Fannie insolvent even without raising the loan limit. Increasing Fannie's limit is like going on a spending spree with your credit cards because you know you are going to file for bankruptcy in a few months. Only here the taxpayer is left holding the bag. Our children will pay interest on this debt in perpetuity. It is our debt. It is inescapable. In the coming months, Fannie and Freddie will buy up mortgages based on old, fraudulent appraisals and on loans with bogus inflated incomes. Unfortunately, many of these loans will still default. Expansion of Fannie and Freddie's reckless lending is exactly what Congress wants because it's plausibly deniable. Teary-eyed lawmakers can take to the airwaves a year from now and declare: "We had no idea Fannie could go under, but we can't cut and run now. Those same lawmakers won't mention the fact that they get paid far more by real estate lobbyists than they do from our Treasury.
Note: The author wrote this article seven months before the collapse of Fannie Mae and eight months before the huge banking bailout. For more news articles suggestion major manipulations to transfer public tax monies to the banking sector, click here.
[Naomi Klein in her new book The Shock Doctrine] argues persuasively that over the last 40 years, no single thinker has shaped the economic and political policies of corporate CEOs, military dictators, presidents, prime ministers and bankers more than [Milton] Friedman. His thesis was simple: The job of governments is to facilitate the free flow of capital across national borders by removing any impediments to trade [and establishing] a drastic regimen of market deregulation, free trade treaties, spending cuts to social programs, the breaking of labour unions and mass privatization of publicly owned resources and industries ... chiefly through the careful manipulation of collective crises such as wars, military coups, natural disasters and economic recessions and depressions. For Friedman's ideas to be implemented, a nation's existing economy and civic society must first be reduced to a state of tabula rasa before being rebuilt according to the [Chicago School] model. [Klein contends] that this capitalist doctrine also has its roots in a series of mind-control experiments performed on often unwilling patients by psychiatrist Ewan Cameron, working out of McGill University in the late 1950s. He imposed a sustained regimen of sensory deprivation, isolation, enforced sleep and a cocktail of LSD, PCP, insulin and barbiturates [and] a barrage of electroshock therapy. The CIA, which paid for Cameron's experiments, modified these techniques for use in prisoner-interrogation sessions. The results were so good that the CIA taught the methods to the Latin American security forces in charge of reprogramming anyone who dared resist the devastating free market "reforms" that swept through South and Central America after Augusto Pinochet's successful, Chicago-School inspired (and CIA-sponsored) coup of populist leader Salvador Allende in 1973.
Special Note: For an incredibly revealing interview on the role of the Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economists in promoting radical change against democracy by using states of public shock to push through unwanted changes, don't miss the powerful talk with Naomi Klein available here.
The U.S. current-account deficit is the broadest measure of America's activity in international trade and global finance. It totaled $857 billion last year, the Commerce Department reported last week. For the fifth year in a row, the nation's current-account deficit set a record. As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified last year before Congress: "The immediate implication [of the nation's soaring current-account deficit] is that the U.S. economy is consuming more than it's producing, and the difference is being made up by imports from abroad, which in turn is being financed by borrowing from abroad." Last year's current-account deficit meant that Americans effectively borrowed $3.3 billion every single working day to fund the gap between their spending and their income. The accumulation of ever larger current-account deficits over the past quarter century has played an indispensable role in transforming the United States from the world's largest creditor nation into the planet's biggest debtor nation. Specifically, in 1982, America's net international investment position was a positive $236 billion. That meant that foreigners owed us nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars more than we owed them. At the end of 2005 (the latest year for which data are available), the net international investment position of the United States was a negative $2.55 trillion. In other words, we owed foreigners more than $2.5 trillion than they owed us. Since 1994 alone, America's net international investment position has deteriorated by more than $2.4 trillion.
Note: The Washington Times was the only media source to report on this highly important story. Why? For a possible answer, click here. For more underreported, yet massive government corruption, click here.
Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States. The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department ... is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records. That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues. "The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous." The program is separate from the National Security Agency's efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and collect domestic phone records, operations that have provoked fierce public debate and spurred lawsuits against the government and telecommunications companies.
In his 18 years as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan has occasionally drawn criticism, but no one disputes his technical prowess or sniffs at his track record of low inflation and steady, almost uninterrupted growth. Enter Ben S. Bernanke, President Bush's nominee to take Greenspan's place. The former Princeton economics professor is currently the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. The following are excerpts from [a speech] by Ben S. Bernanke. "On Milton Friedman's Ninetieth Birthday," Nov. 8, 2002: "I first read 'A Monetary History of the United States' early in my graduate school years at M.I.T. I was hooked, and I have been a student of monetary economics and economic history ever since. Friedman and [his co-author Anna J.] Schwartz made the case that the economic collapse of 1929-33 was the product of the nation's monetary mechanism gone wrong. What I take from their work is the idea that monetary forces, particularly if unleashed in a destabilizing direction, can be extremely powerful. "I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again."
Note: The chairman of the Federal Reserve Board admits here that the Federal Reserve caused the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve is owned by powerful private banks. It was created in 1913 largely in secrecy and fought by many who understood the dangers involved. For more reliable information on this, click here.
NM Rothschild, one of the City's oldest merchant banks, has decided that profit takes precedence over history and is to withdraw from London's gold market. The move is part of Rothschild's plans to halt all commodities trading out of London as it becomes less profitable. Last year, the business generated just 2.2% of the bank's income, down from more than 8% five years earlier. Rothschild's departure will leave a big gap, not least because it hosts the twice-daily gold price fixing. Started in 1919, it is a prized and bizarre tradition. Every day at 1030 and 1500 local time, five representatives of investment banks meet in a small room at Rothschild's London headquarters on St Swithin's Lane. They are charged by the London Gold Market to agree a price for the bullion on offer. Each sits behind a desk and gets a phone and small Union Jack. In the centre is the chairperson, who for the past 85 years has come from Rothschild. A price is given and relayed via phone lines to customers. Then the haggling begins. When the price is right and buyers are matched with sellers, the flags are lowered and the price is fixed. While the whole process harks to a bygone age, the economics of the modern gold market are far less quaint. Many producers are no longer hedging their exposure to both currency and commodity price movements and that has taken a large chunk of business off the table. According to bank chairman David de Rothschild, "our income from commodities trading in London has fallen as a percentage of our total income in each of the past five years".
Note: For more on commodity price rigging, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today's population, that is more than $5,700 per person. This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. The bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. It has been getting $3 billion a year for years. Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973, Stauffer reckons. In addition, the US has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel. Stauffer wonders if Americans are aware of the full bill for supporting Israel since some costs, if not hidden, are little known. Other US help includes: • Israel buys discounted, serviceable "excess" US military equipment. Stauffer says these discounts amount to "several billion dollars" over recent years. • Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel. US help ... has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier. Weapons make up almost half of Israel's manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidized by US taxpayers. Stauffer [has] been assisted in this research by a number of mostly retired military or diplomatic officials who do not go public for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic.
Note: Israel has a population of 6.5 million. Yearly foreign aid to Israel has generally varied between $2.5 to 3.0 billion for many years (it's difficult to locate these figures on U.S. government websites). If you do the math, U.S. taxpayers are giving every man, woman, and child, in Israel about $400/year -- over ten times the per capita rate paid to any other country. That's quite a tax break, especially considering they are not Americans.
GREG PALAST: Protesters say that what we have here is a conspiracy - the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation don't help the poor of the world, they crush them. Well, the bosses are here today, let's ask them. Joseph Stiglitz was chief economist of the World Bank - he should know. He was in the meetings when the World Bank and IMF met to decide the fate of nations. JOSEPH STIGLITZ: They were making the countries worse off. They'll take a strong position on petty larceny and petty theft, but on grand larceny, they'll look the other way. PALAST: The insider says there's a "one-size-fits-all" plan. Every nation gets the same exact four-step programme to the free market paradise. Step one - freedom for hot money. Step two - freedom to increase prices. Step three - free trade for all. Step four, where it all begins, freedom to privatise everything. Insiders saw how it worked in Russia. JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That was the extreme case. You turned over these assets to these oligarchs at a time when the government didn't have enough money to pay pensions to old people. It turned over billions of dollars to a few oligarchs for a fraction of the value of those assets. When it comes to corruption in Russia, they were willing to turn the other way. The IMF and the US Treasury actually almost encouraged it.
Note: To watch the eight-minute video of this BBC clip, click here. For a powerful summary of John Perkins book describing this process in detail, click here. Perkins say he was hired to use the big international banks' money to corrupt dictators and enrich the coffers of the biggest multinational corporations.
Suffering from U.S. and EU sanctions, Russia made a surprise move–its central bank fixed the price of 5,000 rubles to a gram of gold. Few Western investors or executives noticed. Then, Russia ... announced that it would require payment for oil, natural gas and other of its significant exports in rubles. "What the Russians did was a genius," explains Jack Bouroudjian, former president of Commerce Bank in Chicago. "It forces people to go to the Russian central bank and pay gold to get rubles to make the transactions." The ruble had been trading in the range of 70 to 80 for a U.S. dollar. After the sanctions, it plummeted to 120. "Now the ruble basically recovered, trading 80 rubles to the dollar. And it's because of the way they pegged the ruble to gold." U.S. companies that have either international suppliers or customers could be jolted by Russia's golden move. Overseas business partners may need to barter gold for rubles to pay for inputs, like energy, minerals or fertilizers, and therefore demand that their U.S. counterparts pay in rubles or bullion. Additionally, American firms may need to acquire a stack of rubles to pay for their own inputs for foreign-based factories, warehouses or raw materials. Russia isn't alone in its desire. "China has been explicit" in its desire to displace the dollar and make the yuan more central. China is taking preliminary measures to defend their state-owned assets against financial sanctions similar to those the U.S. launched against Russia.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
The Federal Reserve recently reported that about half of Americans have virtually no wealth at all, with four in 10 unable to afford a $400 emergency expense. That means that if their car breaks down or their child gets sick, they have to charge those expenses to a credit card. And when they do that, they get ripped off — big time. Despite the fact that banks can borrow money from the Fed at less than 2.5%, the median credit card interest rate ... is now over 21%. Last year, Wall Street banks made $113 billion in credit card interest alone, up by nearly 50% in just five years. In other words, while working class Americans pay outrageously high interest rates, Wall Street banks get rich. And if you live in a low-income community without a bank or cannot get a credit card, what do you do when you need to borrow money? You may have to turn to a predatory payday lender where the average interest rate on an annual basis is a jaw-dropping 391%. When banks and payday lenders charge these unconscionably high interest rates, they are not engaged in the business of making credit available. They are involved in extortion. We need a national usury law that caps interest rates ... at 15%. And that's exactly what the legislation I introduced with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would do. Under our Loan Shark Prevention Act, we would make sure that no bank or store in America could charge an interest rate higher than 15%. 88% of Americans support a cap on credit card interest rates.
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